Employment and pensions

Poland's electronic employment contracts: is it possible?

Published on 28th Nov 2022

If an employee does not have a qualified e-signature, a combination of digital and "wet ink" versions could be used 

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The Covid-19 epidemic has had a significant impact on digitalizing even more aspects of business life and moving them into the electronic sphere. The number of physical meetings has been reduced and many companies have started to operate remotely. However, there has been problems for some with signing employee documents, while many employers are faced with the question of whether it is possible to conclude an employment work contract remotely in Poland.

Written employment contract

The provisions of the Polish labor law indicate that an employment contract must be concluded in writing. This means that a document must contain the handwritten signature of the contracting party (the wet-ink signature). At the same time, the Polish civil law contains solutions that make it possible to keep the written form also in the on-line sphere. The regulations indicate that a declaration of intent made in electronic form shall, subject to certain conditions, have the same effect as a declaration of intent made in writing. A necessary condition for the effective conclusion of an electronic contract is that the electronic document be accompanied by a qualified electronic signature.

Not every e-signature is a qualified signature

A qualified electronic signature is a form of advanced electronic signature that:
• is uniquely assigned to the signatory;
• makes it possible to establish its identity;
• is submitted using data that only that person can use; and
• is associated with the signed content in such a way that any subsequent change is recognizable. 

This electronic signature is certified with a qualified certificate, in accordance with the electronic identification, authentication and trust services, or eIDAS, regulation. In Poland, the list of certified providers of qualified electronic signatures is available on the website of the National Certification Centre. An electronic signature has legal effect if the certificate on which it is based is valid at the time of signature.

A scan of a manually signed contract does not meet the requirements of a qualified e-signature. Also, not all signatures offered by systems such as DocuSign, Panda or similar meet the requirements of a qualified electronic signature.

Concluding e-employment contracts 

The conclusion of an electronic employment contract, which will be valid according to the Polish regulations, requires each party to the employment relationship to use a qualified electronic signature. In this case, the employer signs the employment contract (an electronic version, for example, in pdf format) with a qualified electronic signature and then sends the contract to the employee electronically. The employee then signs the contract with a qualified electronic signature and sends it back to the employer.

Osborne Clarke comment

The possession of a qualified electronic signature by employees is not a common practice. If an employee does not have a qualified electronic signature, it will not be possible to conclude a valid employment contract solely in electronic form; in these circumstances, it is worth considering a combination of two versions of signatures. 

The solution will require the employer to sign an electronic version of the employment contract (for example, in pdf format) with a qualified electronic signature and provide a copy to the employee; for example, by email. The employee will print out the received copy of the employment contract and sign it with a handwritten signature in two copies, handing one copy to the employer. With this solution, a valid employment contract will be concluded in writing, with the employer's signature being a qualified electronic signature, which has the same force as a handwritten signature.  

In addition to the employment contract, some other employee documents also need to be in writing; for example, a declaration of termination of employment contract. In this case, it is possible to use a qualified electronic signature. However, employers should remember that before signing an employment contract in electronic form, it should be verified whether the e-signature will comply with Polish law.

In case of any doubts regarding the topic presented, please contact our labor law specialists of the Osborne Clarke Poland to find out more about it.

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* This article is current as of the date of its publication and does not necessarily reflect the present state of the law or relevant regulation.

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